What Affects Life Expectancy
If youre diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, its important to understand how this condition can reduce life expectancy.
As a progressive illness, its not uncommon for RA symptoms to worsen over the years. It isnt the disease itself that shortens life expectancy, though. Rather, its the effects of the disease.
The major effects involve:
- your immune system: As an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis weakens the immune system, making you susceptible to infections some serious.
- chronic inflammation: Chronic inflammation can damage healthy tissues, cells, and organs, which can be life threatening if left unchecked.
- duration of the disease: If youre diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at a young age, youll live with the disease longer than someone diagnosed with the disease later in life.
- comorbidities and complications: You can develop complications or other conditions while having RA, and these can affect your outlook. The longer you have the disease, the greater the likelihood of developing complications that could shorten your lifespan.
- untreated RA: Reduced life expectancy can also occur when RA treatment doesnt work or if you dont seek treatment for symptoms or complications. People living with untreated RA are twice as likely to die than people who are the same age without RA.
Stop Eating An Unhealthy Diet
What’s your diet got to do with arthritis? Eating well and maintaining your ideal weight is especially important if you’ve got arthritis. Excess pounds can put lots of stress on weight-bearing joints, which is likely to make arthritis pain worse. Even moderate weight gain can stress joints that are already burdened by arthritis.
Some Daily Activities Are Difficult
Pay close attention to how you truly feel. Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the few diseases where subjective measures of how a patient feels are among the best predictors of how well a person will respond to treatment and how much the disease will progress. Doctors may measure severity of symptoms using both the Health Assessment Questionnaire Disability Index and the Rheumatoid Arthritis Quality of Life questionnaire.
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How Ra Symptoms Progress Over Time
Everyone is different, but there are a few common patterns in the way RA plays out over the years:
- Long remissions. When you’re in one of these periods, your pain and stiffness go away or get much better, but you aren’t cured. In a few people with RA — about 5% to 10% — the disease starts suddenly, and then they have no symptoms for many years, even decades.
- Symptoms that come and go. This happens to about 15% of people with rheumatoid arthritis. You may have periods of few or no problems that can last months between flare-ups.
- Progressive rheumatoid arthritis. Most people in this situation need a long-term treatment plan and a coordinated medical team to manage the condition and slow or stop it from getting worse.
There are four stages. Each has its own treatment options.
- In the early stages, your joint lining, or synovium, becomes inflamed. The bones arenât damaged yet. But the tissue around them often swells, making your joint stiff and painful.
- In this moderate stage, inflammation damages your cartilage, the cushiony stuff that protects the ends of your bones.
- The joint will be stiff, and you wonât be able to move it as far as you used to. The doctor will say youâve lost range of motion.
- In end-stage RA, inflammation stops, but the damage continues. The joint might stop working. Youâll still have pain, swelling, stiffness, and lack of motion. Your muscles may be weak, too. It could be time for joint replacement surgery.
Everyday Life With Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis causes joint pain and swelling, reduced mobility and physical weakness. General tiredness, trouble sleeping and exhaustion are other common symptoms. All of these symptoms can greatly affect your everyday life and overall wellbeing.
Living with rheumatoid arthritis isn’t always easy. One reason is because it’s often difficult to predict the symptoms: They may get better or worse the next day it’s hard to know in advance. Having a “bad” day can be very difficult and make some people feel like they have fallen down into a deep dark hole. This can be made worse by worries about the future because it’s so difficult to predict how the condition might develop in each person. But various treatments can stop the condition from getting worse or slow it down.
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Your Lifestyle Is More Sedentary And You’re Moving Less
Regular physical activity is necessary for everyone but especially for people with RA.Research has shown that regular cardiovascular exercise and weight training can substantially improve daily function without exacerbating rheumatoid arthritis disease activity. There are numerous health benefits associated with regular physical activity like improved muscle strength and better bone and joint health which all help your aches and pains feel better. But rest is also needed to restore the body from the bouts of intense pain and fatigue that are characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis. But you cant let taking it easy become a way of life. A sedentary lifestyle may eventually lead to increased pain, fatigue, and weakness, and a lower quality of life.
Regular exercise also has another life-enhancing benefit: It helps reduce your odds of developing cardiovascular disease. Taking good care of your ticker is essential for people with rheumatoid arthritis, because heart problems are more prevalent in people who have RA compared with the general population. Its heart disease that kills you, not the RA, says Domingues. Its very important to talk to your primary care doctor or a cardiologist if you have RA to control your risk factors, such as high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes.
Its Not Just Arthritis
“Too often, people hear âarthritisâ and think minor aches and pains,” says Dina Neils, 30, a CreakyJoints.com blogger living in California. Neils was diagnosed with RA 18 years ago.
âThe truth is, living with RA means you will most likely be on a variety of medications for the rest of your life,â she says. âYou may need multiple surgeries or joint replacements, too.â
A lot of misunderstandings happen when people donât know the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is typically caused by wear and tear. It’s more common as people get older. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that can set in at any time in a personâs life.
âIâve had so many people say, ‘Oh, arthritis? Getting older sucks, doesnât it?’â Chamorro says. âThatâs really irksome.â
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What Happens If Arthritis Is Left Untreated
Untreated osteoarthritis will continue to progress and worsen over time. Arthritis cannot kill you, but it can cause serious pain and discomfort in your life. The treatment of arthritis is a quality-of-life issue, but is not life-threatening. It is not a diagnosis that will shorten your life expectancy, but if ignored and left untreated, can make the rest of your years of life miserable.
This condition cannot paralyze you, but will make normal function of the joint worsen over time. Untreated arthritis will add to the degradation of the structures in and around the joint leading to more and more pain and a loss of function. The progression of arthritis may lead to requiring a total joint replacement.
Dont Say: You Should Try Yoga
In addition to their vociferous diet opinions, the peanut gallery has too many opinions about how people with RA should get exercise. A very common misconception is that yoga would be good for all people with rheumatoid arthritis, because of the stretching. This may be true for some, but not others.
When Jennifer, 44, was diagnosed three years ago, everyone was always telling me I should do yoga, despite the fact that her wrists were tender and sore. No, I shouldnt. Putting all of my weight on my inflamed joints is not helpful, shed reply. Theyd say, You need to strengthen your wrists. To which she would respond, No, I dont. I have a disease thats in my blood and attacks my joints. I dont have weak joints!
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Will Osteoarthritis Cripple Me
Osteoarthritis is a very dangerous condition because it eventually leads to the destruction of the joint involved but the good fact about it is that it has a very slow progression and usually its progression fasten after the age of 65 years. It has been divided based on clinical classification into 4 stages in the order of which symptoms begin to appear. Initially, in stages 1 and 2, it starts with slight pain in the affected joint which subsides upon movement and occurs only for a limited period. There is limited evidence of damage in the affected joint upon a radiological investigation but it could be more easily demarcated in advanced investigations like magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, etc.
As the osteoarthritis progression increases and the disease reaches stage 3, there is increased involvement of joint cartilage and the damage also increases resulting in difficulty in joint movement as well as the development of bony spurs at the ends of bones which can be well appreciated even in X rays. As the disease progresses further until stage 4, there is an occurrence of joint fusion leading to a very limited range of movement or even no movement.
How Does Arthritis Occur
Some forms of arthritis, such as Osteoarthritis, occur when the cartilage between the bones begin to wear down. Cartilage is the connective, strong and fibrous tissue between the joints, which stimulates the smooth movement of the body, and helps in absorbing shocks while performing activities such as walking or running. A reduction of this tissue makes the joints stiff and painful.
Some other forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Scleroderma, and Juvenile arthritis occur when the immune system of the body malfunctions by attacking the healthy tissue in the body. The cause for this is unknown.
Another form of arthritis, known as gout, occurs due to abnormal metabolism.
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Can I Continue Working With Rheumatoid Arthritis
If you have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, and it keeps you from participating in regular daily activities as well as prevents you from working, you may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. Any one of any age can suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a form of inflammatory arthritis that can cause limitation of joints, persistent swelling, and severe pain.
If your arthritis is severe enough to limit your abilities to perform basic work tasks, such as standing, walking, pulling, carrying, reaching, sitting, lifting, or handling, you may be eligible to receive monthly disability benefits with arthritis from the Social Security Administration .
Advanced rheumatoid arthritis can impact one or more body systems because it is an autoimmune condition. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you will need to visit a rheumatologist regularly for treatment adjustments.
Symptoms Of Progressive Rheumatoid Arthritis
Here are some general warning signs and symptoms that you may have developed progressive rheumatoid arthritis:
The active state of the disease is becoming more frequent Flare-ups are occurring regularly and lasting for longer periods of time Your pain and swelling are becoming more intense, spreading throughout other areas of your body Your diagnosis occurred early on, and so the disease has had a long time to develop You are beginning to develop rheumatoid nodules that you didnt have before Your blood tests show high levels of Rheumatoid Factor or anti-CCP
If you suspect that your rheumatoid arthritis has become progressive, consult your rheumatologist to determine the changes in your condition and discuss potential adjustments to your treatment plan.
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A Note About Sex And Gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms male, female, or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. .
However, with the correct management, many people with RA can have the same life expectancy as those without it.
People with seropositive RA are at a greater risk of developing severe forms of RA than those with seronegative RA. They also have a higher risk of developing physical complications such as rheumatoid nodules and vasculitis.
Widespread inflammation from RA can increase a persons risk of developing other life threatening complications.
RA causes inflammation throughout the body that, over time, can damage organ tissues. Having RA-related complications can affect a persons lifespan.
How To Lower Your Risk For Complications
Despite the risk, several strategies can improve your quality of life and reduce the risk of serious complications:
You may also want to speak to your doctor about getting the vaccination for pneumonia. Its often recommended for people with certain health conditions, including RA.
Rheumatoid arthritis can progress, so talk with your doctor about new or unusual symptoms. These include:
- shortness of breath
- flu-like symptoms that dont improve
- unexplained weight loss
- splinter hemorrhages around fingernails
You should also see a doctor if your current therapy doesnt improve your symptoms, or if RA starts to have a negative impact on the quality of your life.
Here youll find additional answers to common questions about RA and life expectancy.
Imaging Test Results Help Paint A Picture
X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and ultrasounds are all tests that can help track and detect the severity of joint and cartilage damage. Bone erosion and destruction of cartilage can happen quickly within the first two years that you have rheumatoid arthritis, and the damage may continue to develop over time.
Treatments For Hand Oa
- Non-Drug Treatments: Reducing strain on joints with a splint or brace, adapting hand movements, doing hand exercises or using hot or cold therapy can help to ease pain.
- Drug Treatments: Medicines to ease OA symptoms are available as pills, syrups, creams or lotions, or they are injected into a joint. They include pain relievers like acetaminophen, counterirritants like capsaicin or menthol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids.
- Surgical Treatments: If medications or self-care activities fails to give relief, surgery may be an option. An orthopaedic surgeon can remove the damaged cartilage and fuse bones together or replace the damaged joint with a plastic, ceramic or metal implant.
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How Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Treated
Although there is no known cure for RA, the treatment of RA has undergone an enormous and successful explosion over the past 15 years. There are now many highly effective treatments for RA that not only reduce or eliminate the painful symptoms of RA, but will also stop or significantly slow damage to the joints. Some of these medications are taken by the mouth. Others must be taken by injection or infusion these types of medication are called biologics. Whether taken by mouth or injections, these treatments are all referred to as disease-modifying agents because they stop or slow the normal process of joint destruction. Your doctor may recommend a combination of these disease modifying agents if your RA inflammation is not controlled by one medication alone. Some patients may want to supplement their RA treatments with “complementary” therapies such as fish oil, acupuncture, and other strategies these are less well studied and should not be used as the sole treatments for RA. Emotional and social support can help minimize stress.
An occupational therapist will suggest products and techniques that can help you with daily tasks like buttoning a blouse, which is difficult to do with joints stiff from RA. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help keep your muscles strong and joints flexible.
How Rheumatoid Arthritis Affects Your Physical Capacity To Work
Rheumatoid arthritis can impact multiple joints. Because of this, it can prevent you from standing or sitting for long periods of time. It can also keep from being able to reach, lift, carry, pull, or handle things.
You may require assistance for your mobility, such as the use of a walker or cane. Even with a walking device you may be limited on how long you can stand or how far you can walk. You may not be able to bend or squat, which can limit your ability to perform work functions.
If your rheumatoid arthritis affects your hands, wrists, and fingers, you may not be able to hold a pen for long period or do data input for long periods. You may find yourself unable to grasp items or do dexterous tasks, such as sorting paperwork or doing filing.
Besides being unable to lift items you may not be able to reach above your head or remove items from shelves because of your joint condition.
Rheumatoid arthritis often involves taking pain medication and immunosuppresants, which can cause dizziness, drowsiness, cause fatigue, and even cause nausea and gastrointestinal issues.
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Difference In Life Expectancy Between Men And Women
Women are almost three times more likely to develop RA as men are. Symptoms seen in women are also typically more severe. To add insult to injury, the disease course for women can also be more progressive and can potentially involve more systemic complications.
Predicting a life expectancy for male patients with RA is difficult. While men typically dont experience the same severity of symptoms as women do, men already have a baseline higher risk of cardiovascular disease than women. When you add the diagnosis of RA, their risk for developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes increases even more than for women .